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Newsmakers

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) News/Business. (2013) Topics include the budget, the fiscal cliff, and the debate over gun legislation. New.

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Us 5, Washington 3, Tom Coburn 2, Coburn 2, Harry Reid 2, Reid 2, Oklahoma 2, Arizona 2, Jeremy Peters 1, Obama 1, Ben Bernanke 1, Bet 1, The F.b.i. 1, Southwest Texas Border 1, Paul 1, Clin 1, Diane Feinstein 1, Texas 1, San Diego 1, America 1,
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  CSPAN    Newsmakers    Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)  News/Business.  (2013) Topics  
   include the budget, the fiscal cliff, and the debate over gun...  

    March 24, 2013
    10:00 - 10:30am EDT  

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6 >> today on c-span, "newsmakers" with republican senator tom coburn. followed by president obama's remarks from his trip abroad in israel. and later, federal reserve chairman ben bernanke. >> this week on "newsmakers," i want to welcome back senator tom coburn, a clin, from oklahoma, joining us from capitol hill today. and in studio, jeremy peters, congressional reporter and kneel, roll call congressional reporter. let me begin with the first question. the house has passed the continuing resolution that the senate passed this week to keep the government running for this budget year, avoiding a government shutdown. what do you think that says about the process going forward for negotiations on some sort of grand bargain? >> well, the first thing it shows is we actually passed an
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appropriation bill even though -- called a continuing resolution, the vast majority of what was passed were appropriation bills. so it was kind of an omnibus ppropriation bill. it had very limited amendment opportunity. but i think it's a great thing. the house pass passed it right after we passed it. so we now have some certainty. the problem for a grand bargain, let me put in context first. what we have done by the agencies by having them run on crs for 3 years is we have really handicapped their ability to be effective without giving direction and changes and giving them something to plan ahead on so they can actually manage the job that west coast tasked them to do i think -- we have tasked them to do i think has been horrible over the last three years. a grand bargain, everybody needs -- knows what it needs to
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be made of. what is hard to get to is the political dynamics in terms of how it affects elections. and the biggest disease in washington in my opinion, is people care more about the next election than they do the future of the country. so if we get to a grand bargain ul have some people come off and quit worrying about whether or not they want to get reelected and try to fix the country and if we don't it will be about people protecting their political positions and the country will suffer markedly from it. >> on that point, the house this week passed what by most measures would be considered a highly political document, their budget. the senate is getting ready to pass its own budget which is another political document. neither -- >> it is just as highly political. >> i am not disagreeing. neither has a chance of becoming law.
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so i wonder why you and your colleagues aren't spending more time trying to find middle ground instead of going through what are effectively show votes. >> they want to get paid. and if they don't pass the budget they won't get paid. that's number one. number two, is having finally in four years having a budget where you can actually offer amendments and highlight things that you think need to be changed in the federal government is an important exercise because for example last night 79 or 76 senators voted to eliminate the medical device tax. if you vote on that in the budget, when that amendment if it is ever allowed to come up it will go through the senate and it will go through the house and we'll actually change that because it is counter productive and counter prudent in terms of supplying equipment to people whether it be a diabetic or congestive heart patient or other patients.
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so that is the other reason why it is good. i don't doubt that we need to spend some time and there is a lot of talk going on which are being discussed at this time about reaching a grand bargain. and the way you reach a grand bargain is you reach the president with his sleeves rolled up working with senators of the other party and representatives of the other party and building a consensus and then bringing his team along. >> and i should note that we are talking on this friday as the senate is taking up the senate democrat's budget and there is a marathon voting session going on on this day. >> and senator i want to talk a ittle bit about the way that these votes go forward. you say it's important to get senators on board. there's all sorts of other votes where you want to get senators on record. do you think that there is a better way of doing this going
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forward, that it is time to revisit the way the 1974 budget act is written and the way the votea rama comes together? guest: look, it is only novel to you all because we haven't done it in four years. i've done it four times before. there's nothing wrong with this process. it's tonl time in the senate where minority rights are truly protected where you can offer an amendment with a 51 vote threshhold. are there political games being played? yes. there always will be. but there are substantive amendments. i am going to have about 15 amendments on eliminating duplication. we won't do it. but i want them to vote against that they don't want to eliminate the $200 billion a year of duplication that comes out of this government. so they're going to get to vote because they ought to have to explain to the american people why we have 47 job training programs that cost 20 billion a year that don't work and they're not willing to reform them and put met rirks on them and clean them up where it will actually give somebody a skill
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for a lifetime and save us some money. >> senator i want to switch gears and move to a subject that is even in the headlines a little bit more these days in the budget which is gun control. last night harry reid said that he will move a bill with universal background checks to the senate floor. you were part of a coalition discussing whether or not this was feasible. there's a poll out that says 85% of all gun owners support universal background checks. it appears that you've not signed on to this bill. you must have some pretty grave concerns if this is something that the american purble overwhelmingly supports. >> don't confuse two things. they support the checking to make sure you're not selling the gun to somebody that shouldn't have it. almost every member of the senate does that. how you do it is important.
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if you do it, which is presently the way that is designed or what, where we fell apart was on the record keeping side of it. and if you take that same poll among those same people, 45 or 50% of them absolutely don't want recordkeeping because they don't want to trust the government to not use that at some time in the future to limit their second amendment rights. but having said that, put that aside, i don't know a republican that doesn't want to have significantly enhanced and universal background checks. how you do that and protect the second amendment at the same time is very important. and we were very, very close and the gun groups did not like the fact that if you actually follow the law, go to the portal, know that you're not selling it, what they wanted do is to be able to prove in the future that you did that. well, that doesn't fit with
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american juris prudence. american juris prudence is that you're innocent until proven guilty rather than you're guilty until proven innocent. and the fact is that the time between the sale of a gun and one gun used in a crime on average is 11 years. so what we were going to do is put at risk gun owners who actually followed the law and 11 years later can't find a piece of paper that said they did it right and the presumption is that you're guilty. and the vast majority of gun owners in this country and law-abiding citizens do not want to sell a gun to somebody that shouldn't have it and they'll follow this. so where we get locked up was on those areas. and the idea of a universal port al so you can know you're not selling a gun to somebody -- american citizens, gun owners in this country, will absolutely follow the law. and they'll do it in a
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responsible way and we'll actually have a background check on the vast majority of people. and that's what we want. >> but following up on that, senator. with the bill that senator reid is bringing to the floor has announced plans to bring to the floor, without that changing, do you think that there's any chance that he could possibly get 60 votes on the bill as he has it drafted now, or is he going to have to change it if he actually wants to pass? and do you believe he actually wants it to pass? >> i believe all the senators want a bill to pass. there are thing that is we can do that will limit a lot of the problems in terms of transfers. but the point i would make is we have to be recognized that most gun owners today are upstanding law abiding citizens and no matter what law we write the criminals aren't going to
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follow it. and so to have a record a gun dealer's books on a gun that might have been transferred or was going to be transferred at a gun show is too late because once the crime's committed, it's about law enforcement after the fact, after a crime's committed. what we want to do is prevent that crime from happening in the first place and that's why you want to get universal background checks or at least an enhanced one. and i think we have a way to do it if we will trust the american people and the enforcement on it is very, very easy. all touf do is two or three sting operations in gun shows around this country and you will have law abiding since sense checking on every gun transfer. >> to clarify then does this pass the senate universal background checks? >> some type will, yes. it will. but it depends on how you do it.
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there is a legitimate frustration in a lot of gun country in states that have consealed carry and have wide open responsible individuals with guns on whether or not you can trust the federal government with data. so is it somewhat out of kilter? it would be seen that way from people who live in the northwest and maybe the northwest. the rest of the country it is not. so i think we can get there. my hope is we can get there. i don't want to ever sell one of my guns to somebody that is mentally impaired or somebody that is a felon. >> so are you offering language on the floor? and if so what does a universal background check look like to you then? how does it work? >> do you want me to explain the process? >> how do you want it to work so it protects the second amendment? >> i want to work -- if you want to buy my gun, you have to come to me having checked through a portal with the
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f.b.i., national criminal background check, and you get a certificate from them that is good for 30 days that you are not on the list, that you are not a criminal, and that you are not mentally impaired. and then you have to show that to me and i have to document that who you are is who you say you are through a photo id. and then i know that you've been cleared on the list. and i can then sell you a gun. if you can't show me that, then i can't sell you a gun. and then i break the law by selling you a gun if you are not -- do not have one of these validity statements. >> and from what you've just explained do you think that differs from what senator reid is going to put on the floor? >> yes. >> how sow so? >> well they're going to require any gun that is sold in a gun show to go through a federally firearms liceanced background check. and they're not going to do that. because first of all, it's
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going to cause a fee so we're going to raise the cost of purchasing a gun at a gun show. and a lot of the guns control people would love to see that happen. but it won't be effective because if there is a true portal out there all they'll do is make an agreement is that i'm not buying this gun here at the gun show and i'll meet you a week later and i'll bring you my portal certificate and i will sell the gun and won't get charged to have it go into a federally firearm licensed book. >> so senator you think that's not effective. but does that pass the senate? >> will their bill pass the senate? >> yes. >> i don't think so. not at 60 votes. and if it does pass the senate, it certainly won't pass the house. and the whole idea is to get something that will pass both houses. >> senator maybe you can help explain what exactly the rationale is of people who are afraid of there being a federal
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record of gun owners. because when i go to the drug store to buy cold medicine, i have to hand over my drivers license. they have my record of that. why should that knot standard not be applied to a product that is much more dangerous, a gun? >> because it's not written into the second amendment that you have an individual right affirmed by multiple supreme court precedence that there should be no inhibition if you are not on a list that you can purchase a gun. that's number one. and that's solid. and so they don't want any encroachnnment on that. there is a different on that. and because there is a worry of a list and confiscation and -- >> do you think the federal government is going to confiscate people's guns? >> no. but remember, there is a lot of -- there are a lot of people this this country that -- and rightly so, given the behavior of the federal government in
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terms of its fiscal capability in terms of its regulatory overreach, in terms of its poking its nose into every area of everybody's life in terms of domestic drones in terms of all this other stuff that you have created a certain amount of paranoia in this country and some of it is justified because we have become intrusive and obtrucive and we're not a limited government any momplet and if you go back to the founders the best government is the smallest government. the most freedom comes from the most limited government. so what we're saying is gun owners will be responsible. as a matter of fact they're the most responsible people in this country because they know how to use a weapon, how to handle a weapon, how to score a weapon. and what they're saying is we don't want a thing that will inhibit that right because we're seeing all the rest of our rights limited every day. >> if i may shift gears once again from the gun issue on to another hot button which is immigration.
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there's a group of senators that have been meeting regularly that is aiming to put out a plan the week of april 8 on some sort of comprehensive immigration overhaul. senator paul gave a speech not long ago outlining what he thinks should be done. where do you stand on these so-called pathway to citizenship question in the broader immigration debates that's going on these days? >> i don't think you're going to get a comprehensive immigration bill until you can satisfy the american public that we have a way of knowing our border is secure. and our border is not secure. and so you can have that discussion about all those other things but you are never going to get the vote until you can demonstrate and certify that we have secured a border. >> how would you go about putting the resources on the border needed to demonstrate the sort of security that you think the american people would
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need in order to get an immigration bill done? >> well, i actually have spent several days some of it on horse back on the arizona border. i've spent a lot of time on our borders. and if the american people went -- our strategy today is to cause funneling of those that are trying to come across illegally and those that are trying to bring drugs in illegally. we're never going to solve this problem until we address it in the mountains in areas and in some of the other areas and address it in the easy areas, which is a double fence with sensors, with utilizing the technology that we have to know when it's broken and when it comes through. look, we have areas in arizona right now where we've -- the border patrol has gut a gate so they can come across because they kept cutting the fence. and it's not a big fence. it's a barbed wire fence.
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but so they wouldn't have to keep repairing the fence they made a gate to come through. >> so your solution is to build another fence? >> no. you have to see this in perspective. if you look at the fence that we've put up, the real fence, it's fairly effective. they can't put things up against it. but when it's monitored it's going -- it markedly slows. if you look at the san diego border area, we've pretty well controlled that. where we have good fencing and good monitoring, we don't have much coverage coming across there. we just haven't done it everywhere else. and we have said, well, it's too hard. no. it's just we have to prioritize the assets to actually control the border. and it's not just fencing. it's good intelligence on both sides of the border in terms of what's going on. it's utilizing a multiprong approach. but the point is, is we can control our border. we have chosen not to yet. >> so what would be your measure for determining whether
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the border is secured? some concrete numbers or achievement that is have been reached that you would say, ok, now we can start admitting people as citizens? >> my, would be the congress would make that decision every year. are we maintaining the border? have we controlled the border? have we done what we need to do? and i don't even want to talk about the rest of it until we do that. because people in this country aren't worried about immigration. they're worried about illegal immigration. and they're worried that once we have some type of bill that allows any connection to those that have come here illegally any pathway to citizenship, all you'll do is see another flood of people come across the border. >> how would you ever get to a point if congress was asked to do that every year to recertify this, the way -- >> it's not hard. look, you're asking questions without the knowledge of ever being down on the border. and sometimes you have to trust
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us if we go down there and actually spend three or four days across the whole arizona border and the west texas, southwest texas border, you have to see that in your mind before you know what we're talking about. the fact is, is we have tremendous holes in our border today that we control by funneling. and that is not a secure border. regardless even if the numbers are down most are down because of our economic pictures. the amount of drugs are not down. the amount of mules carrying drugs are not down. the amount of spotters are not down. so the fact is it's not there. and until you give me the confidence that we are actually doing one of the primary goals that we are charged with, which is defending this country and protecting the borders, i don't want to have a discussion about any other aspect of it. >> how would you become confident enough that enough was being done? would it have to be a certain number of rate of apprehension?
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what specifically are you looking for? >> if you control the borders there's not going to be any apprehension. >> how do you measure security? >> you measure security is that anything that's coming in through the country is coming in through our checkpoints, period. >> we've got a few minutes left. >> if we get into the last couple of minutes that we have here, one of the other questions that has come up is the way forward for the republican party more broadly. i want to get your thoughts on the outline from the republican national committee on the way forward and others. >> i really can't help you with it because i don't ever think about republicans and democrats as far as party. i'm a term-limited senator. i think we concentrate on republicans and democrats way too much and not on the individuals. and what they'll do and how they'll perform and whether they're going to think long term versus short term politically and i think that parties have actually hurt us in washington. because we tend to check and think in the short term on the
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next election rather than on what should we be doing for the country. so i don't pay any attention to that. i don't look at it. i have never been to a republican national convention in my life. i never will. i don't think that's the important structure. i think getting great people who have real experience to run for public office who aren't in line to a particular ideology but are aligned to common sense and fixing and curing the problems that are in front of us today are the most important thing. >> you're one of the most conservative members of the senate. let's look at it then as a matter of ideology and less one of party. conservatives seems to have a real problem in this country right now. people don't believe that conservatives are empathetic. and i wonder if you think that's a problem for the movement that you are a part of. >> i don't think so at all. and i don't agree with the label conservative not being empathetic. as a matter of fact, let me just give you a question. if we fix our problems today,
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we actually will secure the safetynets for a ton of people who actually need our help. for the mom that is a single mom who is working every day but needs help with her children or health care. by not fixing our problems what we're going to guarantee to that single mom with a child is that there isn't going to be a safety net left. and people who think that's alarmist haven't studied the international economic scene, haven't looked at our debt to gd ratio and haven't looked at what is coming in terms of when the interest rates start rising and we're going to lose another 650 billion out of our budget in interest coughs that rink aren't going to the programs meant to help the individuals. so speaking a message of helping people become successful rather than helping them become dependent and down
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is much stronger message that will actually accomplish something for those people. and so that's real conservatism. >> that sounds like compassionate conservatism. >> that's conservatism to me. we all ought to be compassionate. >> senator, you have tried to work across party lines with your democratic colleagues. you've been part of the gang of six on fiscal cliff talks which turned into the gang of eight working on immigration, on the gun control legislation, do these so-called gang of eights, do they work? >> well, you build relationships and you build the core that's going to get, if we get an enhanced background check out, it will be because of the work that chuck schumer and i and joe manchen did if we get one. and look, you all post a whole lot more partisanship than actually is here. there are great relationships in the senate, great talks. there's a political flavor and then there's the policy flavor.
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we get along very well on trying to hammer out policy. but again, driving for the next election drives the political talk and the partisan talk, which is negative. and that's what's wrong. we have too many people more interested in the politics than the policy. >> so let me ask you, because you plan to leave term limited. i mean, how do you want to -- what are you going to do after you leave the senate to keep at this? because you've been relentless about offering amendments to cut out waste and things like that. how do you keep at it? >> first of all, that's it will be somebody else's job. you know, just the behind the question is would be the presumption that other people can't do more and better of what i've done and they can. and it breeds this only we can do it. you know, america is full of millions of people out there that can do a far better job than we're doing in washington right now. they have a whole lot more experience in life.
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they have better judgments. they're not so ego insecure that they have to hold a position of elected office and they wouldn't worry about it. what we need is more people here who don't care whether they're here or not but care about our country. >> senator to coburn, republican of oklahoma. thank you so much sir. >> you bet. good to talk to you. >> let me turn to both of you. got a lot of hot button issues to talk about. lethsd begin with the budget. what did you hear from the senator there? >> well, the budget particularly what senator coburn was saying that everyone knows the outlines for what a grand bargain would be and it would be just a matter of getting there. so that's the first nugget. the other piece is the extent to chefs interested in and thinking that the appropriations process may actually function and the importance of actually getting that back to functioning
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because he pointed out something that is pointed out most frequently by members of the appropriations committee, that running the government on these sort of stop gap continuing resolutions is not an ideal way to run the government because you end up with department and agencies running programs that shay shouldn't be running any more because you have no way to get rid of them. >> on gun control. uvene versal background checks comes to the floor when they return from their easter passover break. what did you hear from the senator? >> i hear that he thinks that a broad measure is not going to pass. i think he said the senate will be difficult enough but he pointed out another hurdle which is of course the house of representatives which is more conservative than the senate and the republicans control it. so it sounds like i think he believes that anything that goes through is going to be limited in scope. >> so does he get to offer
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amendments to change it to how he would like to see it done as he explained to all of us? >> yes. i think that is going to be the process through which we see this play out. i think there are going to be a lot of different amendments offered. of course diane feinstein's ill banning assault weapons. i think harry reid said that doesn't even have 40 votes. so there's going do have to be a lot of distance that gets closed that i think is really immense. >> what about ammunition clips, limiting the amount of ammunition? is that going to to get a vote? >> i think yes the problem is probably not going to be whether or not these items get votes. the president was very forceful about that in the state of the union and i think the argument that he made is a difficult one for opponents of stricter gun laws to refuture. i believe most americans see this as a matter of yes let's
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have our senators and representatives vote this up or down. the problem of course is going to be whether it meets the threshhold for passage and i don't think that these items seem to have a whole lot of support in either house right now. >> immigration reform. this is from a conservative saying i'm not even going to talk about this other stuff until we confirm that the border is secure. >> right. that was one of the most fascinating parts i think of this whole interview was that when the three of us attempted to press senator coburn on what he means by some sort of concrete deliverable way to secure the border, he suggested that every year congress verify how that is done. and frankly, what i was attempting to get at through a question was the idea that congress is asked to do something through a regular